Long-Term Care Risks and Statistics

The statistics associated with the risk of needing and utilizing long-term care services are sobering. As the population ages and as lifespans increase, the at-risk numbers are also sure to rise.

First, there is the growing population of elderly. By 2030, it is projected that the number of individuals age 65 and older will be more than 71 million, almost twice the number today. Second, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 70 percent of individuals over age 65 will require at least some type of long-term care services during their lifetimes. Over 40 percent will need care in a nursing home for some period.1

The following factors increase one’s risk of needing long-term care:

  • age—The risk generally increases as one gets older. Age is the most significant risk factor leading to long-term care.
  • marital status—Single people are more likely to need care from a paid provider.
  • gender—Women are at a higher risk than men, primarily because they tend to live longer.
  • lifestyle—Poor diet and exercise habits can increase one’s risk.
  • health and family history—These factors also impact one’s risk.

In addition, studies have revealed certain other individual-level factors that are statistically associated with the risk of needing care in a nursing home or an assisted living facility. These factors include the following:

  • income—Persons with lower current income have a higher risk of moving to a care facility than do persons with higher incomes.
  • education—Those with lower levels of education face a higher risk of transition to a care facility.
  • family structure—The presence of potential caregivers has a strong and significant effect on the risk of transitioning to a nursing home or assisted living facility. Those who are single and have no living children are almost three times more at risk of being admitted to a facility than married individuals with children.
  • geography—Those who live in the Midwest are more at risk of having to transition to a care facility than in other parts of the country, as are those who live in a rural area compared to a metropolitan area.2

Who Is at Risk?

Understandably, most people associate the need for long-term care with the elderly, and statistically, the risk of needing long-term care increases with age. However, this need is not confined solely to the aged. According to an article written for Georgetown University Long-Term Care Financing Project, nearly 40 percent of those who need long-term care are age 40 or younger. At younger ages, congenital defects and accidents are the primary causes leading to the need for long-term care. At middle ages (45 to 55), congenital diseases contribute to the risk. After age 70, individuals are subject to the same congenital diseases, as well as to multiple health conditions and frailty.3

Other facts and statistics regarding long-term care point to its growing prevalence:

  • More than 6 million elderly Americans need assistance from family or friends if they are to live at home.4

  • At least two-thirds of all home-care assistance is provided free by family members and friends.5

  • By the year 2020, one of six Americans will be 65 or older.6

  • Of people turning 65, 69 percent will need some long-term care before they die.7

  • More than half of the U.S. population will require some type of long-term care during their lives (nursing home care, home health care, assisted living, or rehabilitative facility care).8

  • Of men turning 65, 58 percent will need some long-term care.9

  • Women are more at risk than men—once they turn 65, 79 percent of women will need some long-term care at some point before death.10

  • Among those turning 65, 52 percent will need long-term care for at least one year before they die, and 20 percent will need more than five years of care.11

  • The average nursing home stay is approximately two and a half years.12

  • After 2021, the population in nursing homes is expected to increase substantially. This is the year the oldest baby boomers will turn 75.13  As the population ages, research has predicted the nursing home population to grow to three to four million residents.14

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information Web site, www.longtermcare.gov.

2 “Estimates of the Risk of Long-Term Care: Assisted Living Facilities and Nursing Home Facilities,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, July 8, 2003.

3 “Faces of Long-Term Care: A Look in the Mirror,” Robert B. Friedland, Long-Term Care Financing Project, Georgetown University, July 2007.

4 Americans for Long-Term Security, Americans for Long-Term Security (ALTCS) Web sitehttp://www.ltcweb.org/ (accessed September 4, 2007) (hereafter cited as ALTCS).

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Peter Kemper et al, “Long-Term Care Over the Uncertain Future: What Can Current Retirees Expect?” Inquiry, Volume 42, Number 4, Winter 2005/2006, pp. 335-350 (hereafter cited as LTC).



10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.